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Peak District dualling scheme would be a disaster for Park

Anne Robinson Friends of the Peak District and CPRE South Yorkshire Sheffield S2
24 July 2020

History repeats itself – ‘Five-mile tunnel mooted for A628 dualling in Peak District’ (LTT 10 Jul). Almost 50 years ago the CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire branch campaigned successfully against a motorway across the Peak District National Park. Today the Park is facing the same threat. The proposed trans-Pennine dual carriageway road, which would have passed under the whole of the National Park through a tunnel at least 12 miles long, has been abandoned. Although feasible it proved too expensive at £8bn-£12bn.

Instead, the powers that be are now proposing an expressway to replace the A628 Woodhead Pass and connect the M67 and M1. According to Highways England’s requirements for such expressways, single carriageway trunk roads are to be widened into 2 or 3-lane dual carriageways and could ultimately be designated a motorway.

Billed as an exemplar scheme, no one has yet revealed what this means for the A628, apart from a five to six mile tunnel under the high moors. What is certain is that the Woodhead would become a bypass of the M62 motorway with huge volumes of traffic diverting onto it, only to pile up in traffic jams at the edges of Sheffield and Manchester where park-and-ride schemes are touted. The Peak Park and wider countryside would bear the brunt of all the adverse impacts of this upgraded route. 

Much of the route would lie above ground within the National Park. With the fast-moving noisy and polluting heavy lorries and cars, would come the paraphernalia of road signs, crash barriers, lighting columns and CCTV. Alternative routes for two minor roads that currently link with the A628 would be needed, and where major roads interact with the expressway, such as at Langsett, grade separated junctions would be required. Who will want to picnic in Longdendale or walk up its hills with all that going on in the valley floor? 

The landscapes of the Peak Park are world-class and of international standing. Their designation brings the highest statutory protection for natural and cultural heritage – including landscape, tranquillity, wildlife, recreation, historic environment and cultural traditions. Surrounded by conurbations, they are crucial in tackling the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, and providing opportunities for mental and physical health and well-being.

The environmental insult does not stop at the Park boundary. These impacts would be felt acutely by communities in the Green Belt that surrounds Greater Manchester, as we already know from the first step in this expressway – the proposed Mottram bypass. Its extension east is likely to require a high viaduct visible from all around. The local stunning countryside in Swallows Wood or on Hobson Moor would no longer be a place to get away from it all.

It seems the decision-makers have not yet learnt that the provision of more road capacity does not deliver a stable situation – the more capacity is increased, the more capacity increases are ‘needed’, as research repeated every decade for the last 90 years has shown. 

Yes, the Longdendale communities urgently need to be relieved of traffic impacts, as they have been during the Covid-19 lockdown. But, as the majority of the traffic is locally generated, making best use of existing infrastructure through huge investment in active travel and new mobilities for mass travel offers them the best way out. 

The lockdown showed what could be achieved. The DfT needs to build on that, reject any development of the A628 and use the funding saved to improve walking, cycling, trams, and bus and rail services.

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